Subtitles section Play video Print subtitles - Growing up, I didn't even know what trans was. It was always, "You're not a girl. You're not a girl. You're not a girl." If you brought your heels with , please put them on. - Black trans woman from Trinidad and Tobago, that doesn't go over well. DOMINIQUE JACKSON: Step up. Don't be scared. I don't bite till after midnigh. [class laughing] I did not see a future for myse. Walking, a lot of times, we don't understand we carry our emotions with us when we walk. If you are late for work, it's gonna be... excuse me. Exc. - [class laughing] Get out of the way, right? - Ballroom becomes salvation fo. DOMINIQUE: When I first put on my hair... and I realized that I could be , there was no going back. ♪ dance music playing ♪ Five, six, seven, eight, walk. But what I've discovered by walking with my head up is being able to say, "No. I don't care what you think abo" CARLOS WATSON: The most extraordinary lives follow undefined paths. To find your voice, you may need to journey into the unknown. I'm Carlos Watson, editor of OZY, and these are Defining Moments. ♪ EDWIN TORRES: I don't know if it's straight o. DOMINIQUE: Yeah, I like that. I never thought I would have put my mother on my wall like t. - Hey. How are you? - Hi, Carlos. A pleasure. Welcome. - How are you? - Welcome to my little, little . CARLOS: Thank you. Beautiful pl. DOMINIQUE: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. In the spirit of the holidays. CARLOS: I was gonna say, you're getting ready for Christ. Is that your favorite holiday? - Eh, you know, um, for quite a while I really didn, get into holidays and stuff lik, because there was so much more going on. I really couldn't put up photos. Like, everyone does. They have , but I didn't value my life. So therefore, I didn't celebratf by putting up my photos. I was living in survival mode. CARLOS: What was it like for you growin? Were you able to be open... - No. - ...as a trans girl, trans wom? - I would never have come out if I was living in Tobago. Trans people on the islands are murdered. And there's nothing done. CARLOS: Was there anyone else growing up on the island, like, were there any other peope who felt like their gender... DOMINIQUE: There was this one person... People on the island treated this person horribly. Like, they couldn't get into ta. They had no place to live. I would see people discriminate against them. I would see people laugh at the. But this person was so happy. When you saw them, they weren'tg with their heads down and feeli. They were walking around, like, really happy. Like, singing and, and a lot of people would say, "Oh, they're crazy. They've lost their mind." But what I've come to realize i, that person had found their tru. They didn't care what anyone el. Going through life, growing up, when it came to understanding m, I was so excited about my truth that I thought that everyone should just be like, "We accept you. We love you. Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah." For my mother, who is rooted in her church, in, in her Bible, she did not understand it. CAROLE LYONS: My name is Carole. And Dominique is my son. My... sorry. Is my daughter. My firstborn. Dominique was a wonderful child. Loving. Kind. He was always a performer. He was a great dancer. DOMINIQUE: I played Wonder Woman. I didn't want to join the Boy S. I joined the Brownies. And when I got to a certain age, it was no longer cute for me to do the girly things. Now it was like, "Look, this can be kind of seri" I had an aunt who, every time I opened my mouth, she would say, "Speak like a boy! Act like a boy! You're not a girl." Okay, but, this is where I rela. - From what age did you feel th? - It was about when I realized that girls had vaginas and boys had penises, and I didn't want one. - So, you're talking, like, - five, six, seven-- DOMINIQUE: Four. I remember first asking the que, "What is this? Why is it here?" To them, it was like, you're born male. But to me, it was like, this is. So, somebody fix it. - Were you saying this to Mom-- - To my grandmother, but they weren't hearing me. I was taken out of dance classe, and put into soccer. I went to church every Sunday, Sunday school. CAROLE: Religion was very much a part of our lives. He was very involved with the Anglican church. He was an acolyte at the time I left Tobago... in 1986. My husband and I at the time, and my three children, we moved to Baltimore, Maryland. JAYE BREBNOR: Mom came over to the Unites States for a bett, to prepare a better life for us. CAROLE: Dominique's grandmother didn't want him to leave Tobago, so he left him with her. DOMINIQUE: I'm about to become an acolyte, so now this is a prestigious thg on the island. Your child is serving on the al. They're closer to God. And then the priest, I started to feel really strange vibes from him. He took me to the beach, myself and another acolyte, and I'm thinking, ooh, everyone else is gonna be , because now I'm close to the pr. To me, it was like being close to a president or something lik. And so we're in the water, and.. he takes off his shorts. My priest was not a homosexual. He was a pedophile. CARLOS: And you were how old at this po? DOMINIQUE: Eleven, probably. I cannot tell you if I was penetrated in the water or not. I just know I felt pain. I know that things did not feel. CAROLE: When I heard that... if I was able to travel, I'm sure I would have committed. DOMINIQUE: Religion was always a part of m. But religion also hurt me. At those times, I didn't feel le I had any connection to God. Even though I knew he was there, I just didn't feel like He lovee or cared for me, because I was told that I was an abomination for being . Years later, I got a phone callg that one of the acolytes had pa. It was from AIDS complications. And so, when I heard that the priest may have HIV, in my entire being, all I heard was "run." "Run." CARLOS: By age 15, Dominique had experienced enough fear and abuse to last a lifetime. Now, she'd leave the only home she'd ever known seeking the one thing she neede: family. CAROLE: She came here to Baltimore. I said, "Okay, that's fine. You can stay with me." And basically, that's when... let us know about his new lifes. It was a shock to everybody. DOMINIQUE: I was being hot in the booty. Went downtown Baltimore. Snuck away from home. I needed to find a place that he find some kind of feeling that I was normal. I met this guy. Taller than I was, and I'm standing there, and I'm like, "Ah, yeah. We're gonna go out." And then here these people come. Trans women. I didn't even know what trans w. But I'm thinking to myself, okay, something's different abo, and I relate to it. And they're like, "Oh, you're not dating him." "I don't know you." "No, you're not dating him." They told me he contracted HIV, and the way that he dealt with t was to do this thing called "gi" His idea was, someone did it to, so I'm gonna do it to everyone . And they held me and they walke. But they were from ballroom. Ballroom saved my life that nig. - For people who've never been to the shows, take 'em inside. What were the shows like? - Fantastic. ♪ dance music playing ♪ DOMINIQUE: You could be coming into that br with all kinds of burdens and t, and then this person would get , and you would see makeup, and you would see hair, and you just feel this sense of. ♪ dance music playing ♪ It was ballroom, and we were vogueing at night, and doing runway, and tying sheets around to make. It was a place for us to just really have community. It's like, why are you going to? Because that's where you feel your comfort. I had found my chosen and prove. People who were just like me. CARLOS: Dominique's initiation into the world of ballroom helped her define what she'd always been feeling. It also provided sanctuary to l, as the person she saw in the mi. JAYE: I found out when I was about 10 that my brother is no longer my. It's my sister. So, of course, like any other p, Mom has rules, standards, guidelines. If you don't want to live under my household, you know, leave. And, you know, that's what happd at that point in time. CAROLE: If you love someone, it's not about acceptance. That's how I see it. In my eyes, it's wrong. We were taught by my grandmother to always live for the Lord. That's how we lived. And there was nothing about bei, or anything like that. DOMINIQUE: I couldn't go back h, because if I had gone back home, then I would have to de-transit. So, because I could not live in my mother's house as a female at that time, the voice came back to me. "Run." I ended up in New York. ♪ - Tyra Allure Ross is who we kn. You all know her by Dominique J. So when I say Tyra, I mean Dominique Jackson. She was a legend. A bona fide legend. HOST: Miss Tyra Allure. - MICHAEL ROBERSON: In the house of ballroom commun, particularly her category, the trans women are overly made, if you will. This notion of a Jessica Rabbit, small waist, big breasts, and here's this tall, slender wn who would walk in a club part the Red Sea like Moses, have all these little young gayn surrounding her. Like Janet Jackson, like Naomi , Tyra has that same kind of powe. And when she does it, you would never think someone like that is struggling with self-esteem issues. DOMINIQUE: When you came to New, you only knew one place. Going down to Christopher Stree. And it was either 42nd Street or Christopher Street. And this is where we survive.